Rolling to Remember, the annual Memorial Day motorcycle rally to honor servicemembers lost or missing in action, launched from RFK Stadium on Sunday afternoon. But the event got off to a rocky start this year due to a snub by the Pentagon.
The rally was organized by AMVETS, a nonpartisan, Congressionally-chartered advocacy group representing veterans. The group recently renamed the event Rolling to Remember. It was previously called Rolling Thunder.
Some form of a motorcycle ride to remember veterans has been taking place in Washington for 30 years, according to WTOP. Last year’s ride was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Rolling to Remember Had to Change Locations
Pentagon Special Events had approved AMVETS’ permit for the rally on March 11. But then it backed out, citing coronavirus concerns, Fox News reported.
After that development, more than 30 Republican House members sent a letter to President Biden. They encouraged him to override the Pentagon’s veto and let the rally launch from the Pentagon parking lot.
“I would have hoped that President Biden would have more respect for a Memorial Day tradition, which raises awareness to the 82,000 service members who are still missing in actions and that 22 veterans die by suicide each day,” Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), who wrote the letter, said in a statement. “That is why today, I am urging President Biden to reverse his administration’s decision and grant Rolling to Remember their permit request to use the Pentagon’s parking lot.”
Mast is a 12-year Army veteran. He served as a bomb disposal expert and lost both his legs in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s response was that it would still prohibit the rally in its parking lot. But it said it would work with AMVETS in the future “if COVID-19 conditions permit.”
Fortunately for AMVETS, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, the Metropolitan Police, RFK Stadium and other D.C. leaders intervened and allowed the rally to launch from the RFK Stadium parking lot instead.
Rally Kicked Off from RFK Stadium
On Sunday, thousands of veterans riding motorcycles headed out from the RFK Stadium parking lot and rode around downtown D.C. Their goal: to draw attention to the plight of over 80,000 prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. Additionally, they hope to shed light on the current suicide crisis among veterans.
“It’s everything, to let them know that we’re not going anywhere, is a big thing for us,” veteran Chuck Clark of Ohio told FOX5 DC on Sunday.
According to the Warrior Call initiative, more American veterans have died by suicide over the past decade than died in combat in Vietnam. Moreover, active-duty suicides have been steadily rising since 2016.
“They should never have had to scramble and find an alternative site – and everyone knows it never would have happened to a group that is politically favored by the Biden Administration,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) told Fox News of the changed location.